Her Story: Valara Sample

Motivating Stories from Local Women


Every woman has a story to tell, and no two stories are alike. Meet the women who have persevered through challenges and tribulations and come out the other side stronger than ever. These unique individuals have seen their fair share of adversity but continue to inspire those around them with the lessons they have learned and their love of life. Read on for a truly motivating story by a woman who experienced them firsthand.


Photography by Rich Smith / Photos taken on location at the Chattanooga Choo Choo




Valara Sample, East Brainerd


Reach for the moon. You may land amongst the stars. You are going to make it. I know that you are.

I can see my mother playing this LP record repeatedly and singing the lyrics long after the record stopped playing. She believed in these words for her 10 children, even though she had been thrust into being a single parent when I was 18 months old. Living in rural Mississippi, we didn’t have much. What we had was a praying mother, a praying grandmother, and a praying grandfather. They lived by “now faith” – not worrying about the future.

Growing up in a big family and being the youngest made it very challenging to become the first at anything. I was constantly reminded of my siblings’ legends in sports, dance, and academics. I walked in the footprints of giants and wondered about my purpose. That is, until I entered college – finally, a first for me. I was the first in my immediate family to graduate. I was no longer walking in the footprints of my siblings; I was now making footprints.

Making my own footprints wasn’t always easy. As I progressed in my career, thoughts of Am I good enough or smart enough? would take up residence in my mind. There were times that I had doubts about my accomplishments, abilities, and success. Am I living the dream of my mother? If she were still alive, would she be proud of the woman I am? Am I living out my true purpose?

I guess you can say that from time to time, I experience imposter syndrome. I learned to manage these thoughts of doubts through prayer, meditation, positive affirmation, and listening to uplifting music. Nevertheless, I’ll admit that I have sought counsel through an employee assistance program when these strategies didn’t work. Sometimes you need a neutral person to listen to you and bring you back to reality. Regardless of which method I use, I know that I will land amongst stars if I reach for the moon, and I will make it through.

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